I remember it well. It was one of those awful days at the end of December. Sleet changed to rain and back again in a meteorological tug-of-war that seemed to have sapping the post-holiday spirit as its lone purpose. At mid-day, I trudged out to the mailbox at the end of our driveway, managing to turn an umbrella inside out when a gust of wind caught it as I reached in for whatever the postman had seen fit to leave on such a dreary afternoon. Back in the house, I plunked the mail down, un-inspected, on the kitchen counter and went off to finish my book.
|The catalogs are all marked up, and|
two orders are already in.
I came downstairs an hour later and found my wife at the dining table. There was the aroma of a freshly-brewed pot of tea. Across the table’s surface were catalogs and magazines – specifically gardening catalogs and magazines. One had already been marked up with pages folded over and items circled. Another was undergoing the same scrutiny. The third and fourth waited in the wings.
Regardless of what the calendar says, with the arrival of those glossy, color catalogs, the spring gardening season is officially underway. And, the winter gloom seems to have lifted just a little.
|Darcus Daria, a fancy name for|
Queen Anne's lave
White Flower Farm featured Daucus ‘Dara’ on its cover. To me, it’s Queen Anne’s Lace, but if someone wants to call it by some unfamiliar name and label it a ‘hard-to-find’ annual, that’s fine with me. ‘Dara’ offers delicate flowers ranging in color from white to maroon. By the vehemence of the circling, I have every reason to believe it will grace our garden this spring and provide a burst of color beginning in July.
|Scabiosa is a perfect 'picking' flower|
Scabiosa, better known as pincushion flower, has one of the least attractive names ever appended to a beautiful flower. Johnny’s of Maine features a ‘Pincushion Series’ featuring a mix of color from almost black to creamy apricot and lavender blue. The wonderful thing about scabiosa is they’re near perfect for cutting. They can simultaneously grace a garden as well as a dining table.
Betty’s heart never wanders far from the vegetable garden, and I found a dozen pages folded over in Pinetree Seeds’ 2020 catalog. After several disappointing tries, we had great success with fennel this past year. I don’t know if ‘Florence’ fennel is the same variety we grew in 2019, but this one promises a one-pound bulb twice the size of its nearest competitor, yet delivering sweet, anise-like flavor.
|My love of okra - and its hibiscus-like|
flower knows no bounds
She also grows okra because my southern roots demand I have it as part of my diet. This year, she circled one called ‘Jambalaya’ (the perfect name, in my view) that promises dark green pods in 55 days. Because it can’t be planted until the soil temperature is close to 80 degrees, getting from seed to fruit in under two months sounds about perfect for New England.
Ultimately, gardening catalogs are a lifeline between the past and the future. We’ve chosen to live in a climate where fruit, flowers, and greenery are compressed into five or six months that are equal parts precious and spectacular. Looked at from an outdoor gardener’s viewpoint, January is the year’s nadir, not its start. It has been three months since the garden was alive with color, and it will be three months until it again begins to show its promise. Those catalogs are tangible proof spring is just a few months away.